Just a Little Square
Country Music Capital News (April 2013)
By Susan Jarvis
“BUT IT’S REALLY EXCITING STARTING OUT FROM SCRATCH AGAIN – IT REALLY DOES FEEL LIKE STANDING ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, READY TO JUMP AND WAITING TO SEE WHETHER YOU’LL FALL OR FLY.”
For Sam Hawksley, it simply came down to one thing.
“I just knew I had to try, or I’d die wondering,” he said.
Sam originally went to Nashville three years ago, to perform and tour with Adam Brand. But with Adam’s return to Australia this year, and his own visa due to expire, Sam had to make a decision: should he return to his comfortable life in Australia, with plenty of contacts and offers of work, or take the plunge on his own?
“I really thought long and hard about it, but in the end I decided I had unfinished business in Nashville, and I really wanted to make that commitment – I didn’t want to regret not giving it a real shot,” he said.
“So I went back, and I’ve even bought a little house in Nashville and gone through the expensive and lengthy process of getting a new three-year visa. I’m definitely here for the next few years, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Sam was back in Australia in January to perform in Tamworth, and act as musical director for the Toyota Star Maker final and grand final. With him came a brand new album – his sixth – titled Baby, Baby, Baby.
This incredibly talented singer-songwriter and guitarist is well-known for his slightly quirky, introspective ballads, but this time he decided to stretch his songwriting and aim for something different.
“It’s easy for me to write sad ballads – they just come out naturally,” he said.
“But it’s harder to write happy songs, and songs that capture different experiences of life. On the whole, this album is a much more up-vibe, positive collection of music, with a lot of interesting sounds and styles. It’s a bit more rootsy and there’s more of a focus on the guitar.”
He recorded most of the tracks for Baby, Baby, Baby in Nashville, and it was completed in close mate Matt Fell’s Sydney studio, with Matt mixing the album. Sam produced it himself, and has managed to achieve a very classy sound and overall production.
The songs on the album are world-class, co-written with regular collaborators like Wendy Page and Jim Marr, Michael Heeney, Chris Tuttle, Adam Brand and Travis Meadows.
There are many highlights, including the breathtaking Edge Of The World and the wonderful Mercy, both songs written during the period when Sam was searching his soul about whether he wanted to start his career all over again.
“It would have been easy to just keep working in Australia. I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to work with people like John Farnham, Wendy Matthews, Richard Clapton and Vanessa Amorosi, and I know so many people in the music business there,” Sam said.
“But it’s really exciting starting out from scratch again – it really does feel like standing on the edge of the world, ready to jump and waiting to see whether you’ll fall or fly.”
Even at this early stage, though, it seems that Sam’s starting to soar. He’s recently been approached about touring with Cyndi Lauper, and he’s toured with artists including Sixpence None the Richer, Terri Clark and Sunny Sweeney, as well as Adam Brand.
He has a weekly residency at a local café, and also plays regularly with a band.
“I’ve been playing all my old songs – some of which I’d almost forgotten,” he said.
“Nashville’s packed with great musicians, and there’s so much music – everyone plays for tips. But it’s fantastic and I love it!”
He’s also becoming an in-demand producer, recently producing albums for The Sunny Cowgirls, The Harmonators and Adam Brand (he produced half of Adam’s latest album and all of his previous one).
WHY MOVE AWAY FROM A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY TO VENTURE INTO UNKNOWN TERRITORY IN THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS COUNTRY MUSIC CITY?
This year, he’s produced recordings for Amber Joy Poulton and Courtney Conway.
He was joined on the album by another talented expatriate, Jedd Hughes, and the guitar work on all the tracks is amazing. The pair clearly adores working together, and weaves musical magic.
Tracks like Gotta Lotta Livin to Do, I Can’t Give You More Than Love and I Ain’t Gonna Worry capture the spirit of the album, which is optimistic, open to possibilities and full of energy and hope.
“I wrote Gotta Lotta Livin’ as a kind of bucket list of all the things I want to do. It has a bit of a Travelling Wilburys vibe to it. I Can’t Give You More is simply saying that love is the most important thing in the world. And I Ain’t Gonna Worry was a lot of fun to write – it was inspired by Bob Dylan,” Sam said.
Sam’s quirky streak emerges in the delightful I’m Just A Little Square – Sam’s self-proclaimed “anthem for tall, skinny guys with glasses” – along with Afraid Of You and the cheekily titled Everytime I See You, I Lose My S*** (which he admits will get him into trouble with US radio stations).
But when you listen to the heartfelt, raw Hard To Forget you remember just how powerful Sam Hawksley’s songs can be. The song was based on a personal experience, and Sam says he still finds it difficult to sing.
Sam’s classic Sounds Like Summer was recently chosen by Graeme Connors as one of the tracks for his tribute album to fellow Australian songwriters, Kindred Spirit, and Sam says he’s really honoured that it was chosen.
“I really do feel like I’m poised on the edge of something exciting, and I feel like the risk has definitely been well worth it – right now anything’s possible, and I’m ready,” Sam said.
With a wonderful new album under his belt and a swag of music and songwriting talent, there’s no reason to doubt that the world’s the limit for Sam Hawksley.